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2007 Arizona State Sun Devils

Collegefootballnews.com
Posted Dec 31, 2007


2007 Arizona State Sun Devils Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Arizona State Sun Devils

Recap: It was no coincidence that Arizona State’s best season in 11 years was also Dennis Erickson’s first season in Tempe.  The Sun Devils unexpectedly rose to No. 6 in the country with an 8-0 start before being outclassed down the stretch in double-digit losses to Oregon, USC, and Texas in the Holiday Bowl.  The program showed a penchant all year for falling behind early and storming back in the second half, getting plenty of help from the resurgence of third-year QB Rudy Carpenter.     

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Rudy Carpenter

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Robert James

Biggest Surprise: Although Erickson was supposed to have a positive impact on the program, talk of a possible national championship run in November was highly unexpected.  The Sun Devils were more physical and mentally tough than at any time in the Dirk Koetter era, sporting a defense that finished in the top half of the Pac-10 in run and pass defense.   

Biggest Disappointment: The play of the offensive line.  Despite boasting a veteran unit that returned six players with starting experience, the Sun Devil offensive line was often no match for opposing pass rushes, allowing a league-worst 55 sacks over 13 games.       

Looking Ahead: Now that he has momentum, Erickson needs to parlay that into more speed and depth along both lines.  The return of Carpenter for his senior season provides stability, but to remain a player in the Pac-10 in 2008, Arizona State needs to develop reinforcements on the offensive line and in the secondary.

- 2007 ASU Preview  
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2006 ASU Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
7-5
2007 Results:
10-3

Sept. 1 San Jose State W 45-3
Sept. 8 Colorado W 33-13
Sept. 15 San Diego St W 33-14
Sept. 22 Oregon State W 44-32
Sept. 29 at Stanford W 41-3
Oct. 6 at Wash St W 23-20
Oct. 13
Washington W 44-20
Oct. 27 California W 31-20
Nov. 3 at Oregon L 35-23
Nov. 10 at UCLA W 24-20
Nov. 22 USC L 44-24
Dec. 1
Arizona W 20-17
Holiday Bowl
Dec. 27 Texas L 52-34

Dec. 1
Arizona State 20 ... Arizona 17
Arizona State got by with a Rudy Carpenter flip pass for a touchdown to Tyrice Thompson and a 20-yard Michael Jones scoring grab, and two short Thomas Weber field goals, while the defense kept the Wildcat offense under wraps. Arizona scored first on a one-yard Rob Gronkowski catch, but couldn't get back in the end zone until there were 26 seconds left. ASU only finished with 344 yards of total offense, but Arizona only gained 316.
Player of the game: Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter completed 20 of 37 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 20-37, 247 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Dimitri Nance, 22-58. Receiving: Chris McGaha, 6-83
Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 28-52, 272 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Mike Thomas, 1-37. Receiving:
Mike Thomas, 9-98
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Arizona State isn't going to win any beauty contests, and while that might not matter to the overall record, it could prove costly when it comes time for bowl bids. This just isn't a polished enough team to make too much noise against the top-shelf programs right now, but it got good defense against Arizona and got just enough production from Rudy Carpenter to keep the offense in control. More of a consistent running game would be nice, but that's a lot to ask for considering all the injuries. It's going to be defense and Rudy Carpenter in the bowl game, but whatever happens, a ten-win season is still impressive.

Nov. 23
USC 44 ... Arizona State 24
John David Booty threw for 375 yards with four touchdown passes to four different receivers, and ran for a one-yard score, highlighted by a 34-yard play to Fred Davis at the end of the third quarter to put the game well out of reach. Booty's first touchdown pass, a four-yard strike to Vidal Hazelton on the opening drive, was answered by a 98-yard Rudy Burgess kickoff return for a score. A 25-yard Thomas Weber field goal for ASU made it 17-17 early in the second quarter, and then USC opened it up with a 27-point run to make it a rout. The Trojan defensive line dominated with six sacks and several more pressures while holding ASU to 16 yards rushing.
Player of the game: USC DE Lawrence Jackson made eight tackles, four sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss and forced a fumble.
Stat Leaders: Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 21-30, 240 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Dimitri Nance, 9-19, 1 TD. Receiving: Chris McGaha, 5-85
USC - Passing: John David Booty, 26-39, 375 yds, 4 TD
Rushing:
Chauncey Washington, 22-80. Receiving: Fred Davis, 5-119, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
ASU simply didn't have the horses or the talent to beat a USC with all its parts working. The offensive line has been an issue all season long in pass protection, and it almost got Rudy Carpenter killed. Despite being battered and beaten up all night long, Carpenter hung in and kept pressing, but to no avail. This is still a strong ASU team, but it needs to figure out something in a big, big hurry or the Arizona defense will tee off on Carpenter.

Nov. 10
Arizona State 24 ... UCLA 20
Arizona State overcame an early 10-0 deficit and a late 89-yard kickoff return for a score from Matt Slater to hold on for the win. Rudy Carpenter connected with Kyle Williams for a nine-yard score, Dimitri Nance ran for an 11-yard touchdown, and Keegan Herring put the Sun Devils up for good with a 71-yard run midway through the third quarter. After a Thomas Weber punt pinned the Bruins deep with time for one last gasp try, a several lateral play helped get the ball past midfield, but the desperation play sputtered out and ASU pulled it out.
Player of the game: In a losing cause, UCLA S Chris Horton made eight tackles, three sacks and four tackles for loss
Stat Leaders: UCLA - Passing: Osaar Rasshan, 14-27, 181 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Craig Sheppard, 12-56, 1 TD. Receiving: Brandon Breazell, 5-87
Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 16-31, 200 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Keegan Herring, 22-116, 1 TD. Receiving: Chris McGaha, 9-123

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... ASU needs to be much, much sharper against USC and Arizona to finish 11-1 and be in the Rose Bowl. Against UCLA, Rudy Carpenter got hit way too often, the running game was inconsistent and it took way too long to put a punchless team way. Carpenter won't be able to get away with a 16 of 31-day against the Bruins, but he needs help from an offensive line that's had a nightmare of a time in pass protection over the last few weeks. UCLA's six sacks kept the game close.

Nov. 3
Oregon 35 ... Arizona State 23
Dennis Dixon threw four touchdown passes including strikes of 26 and 27 yards to Jaison Williams in the first half. Jonathan Stewart caught a 13-yard touchdown pass and ran for a 33-yard score to keep the Ducks ahead, but the Sun Devils kept pressing with Rudy Carpenter throwing a 26-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jones, and an 11-yard score to Brent Miller. But ASU blew two key scoring chances, with Carpenter throwing an interception in the end zone and a Tyrice Thompson fumble off a long pass all but sealing the Duck win. The Sun Devils outgained the Ducks 489 yards to 400.
Player of the game: Oregon DE Nick Reed made 11 tackles with 3.5 sacks and five tackles for loss
Stat Leaders: Oregon - Passing: Dennis Dixon, 13-22, 189 yds, 4 TD
Rushing: Jonathan Stewart, 21-99, 1 TD. Receiving: Jaison Williams, 5-106, 2 TD
Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 22-36, 379 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Keegan Herring, 12-83. Receiving: Brent Miller, 6-45, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Give credit to Oregon for coming up with the plays to get up early, but ASU was making one of its patented comebacks only to shoot itself in the foot on two key plays. An apparent miscommunication led to an interception in the end zone, and the late Tyrice Thompson fumble, proved to kill the chances. This was a tough win that knocked the Sun Devils out of the national title chance, but with showcase games against UCLA, USC and Arizona ahead, don't dismiss the chances to find a way into a BCS game. Winning at USC would be more impressive than Oregon beating the Trojans in Autzen.

Oct. 27
Arizona State 31 ... California 20
Cal got out to 13-0 first quarter lead on a 13-yard Cameron Jordan fumble recovery for a touchdown and two Jordan Kay field goals, ASU got an 11-yard Dimitri Nance touchdown run, Cal answered with a 21-yard DeSean Jackson touchdown catch, and then it was all Sun Devils the rest of the way. Nance scored from two and eight yards out, Thomas Weber hit a 47-yard field goal, and Kyle Williams caught a 12-yard scoring pass as part of a 24-0 run. Cal's offense sputtered in the second half, but ASU only outgained the Bears 363 yards to 359.
Player of the game: Arizona State RB Dimitri Nance ran 21 times for 85 yards and three touchdowns and caught three passes for 47 yards
Stat Leaders: California - Passing: Nate Longshore, 18-36, 261 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Justin Forsett, 17-62. Receiving: DeSean Jackson, 5-88, 1 TD
Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 17-29, 219 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Keegan Herring, 24-96. Receiving:
Chris McGaha, 4-58
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... ASU didn't get a ton of yards against Cal, but it made them count. The rushing combination of Keegan Herring and Dimitri Nance might not make everyone forget about Ryan Torain, but it was strung enough to take the pressure off Rudy Carpenter for a second straight game. Give credit to the Sun Devils for not panicking when down early. Cal had the nice lead, the passing game was working relatively well, and it seemed like the magical run was about to end. Not quite. Now comes the real fun with a trip to Oregon. Win that game, and then it's time to really start talking about a possible national title run.

Oct. 13
Arizona State 44 ... Washington 20
It took ASU about a half to get going, but it came out of the locker room rolling with 21 straight points on a 21-yard pass play to Rudy Burgess, and 57-yard Dimitri Nance touchdown run, and a 76-yard Keegan Herring scoring dash. Washington's offense didn't have an answer, only getting a 31-yard Ryan Perkins field goal in the second half, while ASU tacked on another ten points highlighted by a 35-yard Troy Nolan interception return for a score. ASU outgained Washington 523 yards to 288.
Player of the game: Arizona State RB Keegan Herring ran ten times for 119 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 20-31, 227 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Keegan Herring, 10-119, 1 TD. Receiving: Chris McGaha, 5-73
Washington - Passing: Jake Locker, 10-28, 142 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Louis Rankin, 11-80. Receiving: M
arcel Reece, 2-45, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It seems to take ASU about a half to get its feet wet, and then it comes out and blows the doors off teams. Credit the coaching staff for making the proper adjustments at halftime, but it's also a cause for concern with the big boys on the schedule coming up. The Sun Devils can't get out to a slow start against Cal or Oregon, but as long as there aren't many mistakes, the penalties are kept to a minimum, and there's good offensive balance, this team is talented enough to beat anyone left on the slate.

Oct. 6
Arizona State 23 ... Washington State 20
Arizona State hit its kick; Washington State missed its chance.
Cougar PK Romeen Abdollmohammadi hit a 38-yard field goal to tie it at 20 with less than four minutes to play, only to see Thomas Weber nail a 37-yard field goal to give ASU the lead for good. Abdollmohammadi had one final chance to send it into overtime, but missed on a 45-yarder. The Sun Devil offense sputtered, just getting two Rudy Carpenter touchdown passes, but got help from the defense, with Justin Tryon picking off an Alex Brink pass for a 69-yard score. Wazzu outgained ASU 451 yards to 296, and got two Brink touchdown passes highlighted by a 32-yarder to Brandon Gibson.
Player of the game: Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter went 19-of-27 for 217 yards with two touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Stat Leaders: Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 19-27, 217 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing: Ryan Torain, 24-116. Receiving: Kyle Williams, 6-71, 1 TD
Washington State - Passing: Alex Brink, 27-50, 369 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing:
Dwight Tardy, 13-32. Receiving: Michael Bumpus, 6-62

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Beating Washington State was hardly easy, and for the first time all year, the running game got a good game out of Ryan Torain, but averaged 1.8 yards per carry, mainly because of the pass protection problems, but the Sun Devils found a way to win. 6-0 is 6-0, and after the Washington game, the real season starts with all the Pac 10 big boys ahead over a key four-game stretch. To win and stay in the Pac 10 title race, the offensive line can't play as poorly as it did this week after allowing seven sacks. Rudy Carpenter was under pressure all game long, and therw two interceptions, and now he'll need more protection in the upcoming shootouts.

Sept. 29
Arizona State 41 ... Stanford 3
Arizona State was struggling a bit early on, only managing two Thomas Weber field goals, and then lightning struck at the end of the first half. Rudy Burgess caught a 62-yard touchdown pass, and on Stanford's next play from scrimmage, Omar Bolden returned an interception 29 yards for a score and a 21-0 lead. The Cardinal bounced back to go 65 yards in ten plays, with Derek Belch connecting on a 42-yard field goal on the last play of the first half. That would be it for the drama. Welch his two more field goals in the second half, Dimitri Nance scored on a 17-yard run, and Keegan Herring closed out the scoring with a 72-yard dash.
Player of the game: Arizona State WR Rudy Burgess made seven catches for 137 yards and a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 20-27, 259 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Ryan Torain, 16-103. Receiving: Rudy Burgess, 7-137, 1 TD
Stanford - Passing: T.C Ostrander, 20-35, 237 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Anthony Kimble, 10-20. Receiving: Richard Sherman, 6-105

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It took a little while for the machine to get rolling against Stanford, but once the offense found its groove, it was over. Rudy Carpenter had another efficient, solid game, avoided making major mistakes and keeping the chains moving after the first quarter, but this game was a blowout because of the defense. Seven sacks, including 2.5 from Dexter Davis, helped the Cardinal net a mere -2 yards rushing. If the D can keep getting offenses off the field, 7-0 (with Washington State and Washington ahead) is a must before dealing with California.

Sept. 22
Arizona State 44 ... Oregon State 32
Arizona State ripped off 31 straight points in the second half to overcome a rough first quarter, as Ryan Torain scored on two Rudy Carpenter passes to go along with a 41-yard dash. Oregon State got up 19-0, starting of with a safety off a bad snap before Howard Croom caught a 14-yard touchdown pass, and Yvenson Bernard ran for a one-yard score. And then the ASU passing game kicked in, as Carpenter connected with Michael Jones for a 64-yard touchdown early in the second quarter, and again late in the third quarter from 43 yards out. The Sun Devil defense also did its part with five interceptions, with Robert James and Troy Nolan picking off OSU QB Sean Canfield twice.
Player of the game: Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter completed 25 of 36 passes for 361 yards and four touchdowns with an interception.
Stat Leaders: Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 25-36, 361 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Ryan Torain, 26-91, 1 TD. Receiving: Rudy Burgess, 6-38
Oregon State - Passing: Sean Canfield, 28-48, 324 yds, 2 TD, 5 INT
Rushing:
Yvenson Bernard, 24-128, 1 TD. Receiving: Sammie Stroughter, 6-102

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
While ASU didn't have its sharpest performance so far in the win over Oregon State, the defense made the big plays to turn things around, and the offense took advantage of every opportunity. Ryan Torain ran well, but the offensive line struggled with the Beaver pass rush, and didn't open up consistent holes to run through. Even so, the offense showed excellent explosion to put the game away. It's not necessarily a bad thing to play an average game and put up 44 points in a win over a good team like OSU.

Sept. 15
Arizona State 34 ... San Diego State 13
Rudy Carpenter threw two touchdown passes and Keegan Herring scored twice as Arizona State had few problems with the Aztecs. Carpenter connected with Kyle Williams from 19 yards out on the opening drive of the game, and hit Rudy Burgess for a 30-yard score at the end of the first half. Herring tore off a 46-yard scoring run in the first quarter, and put the game well out of reach with a one-yard run in the third. San Diego State got two Garrett Palmer field goals and a three-yard Kevin O'Connell touchdown run.
Player of the game ... Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter completed 19 of 37 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns with an interception
Player of the game: Arizona State RB Keegan Herring ran 19 times for 161 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 24 yards
Stat Leaders: Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 15-21, 200 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Keegan Herring, 19-161, 2 TD. Receiving: Rudy Burgess, 3-52, 1 TD
San Diego State - Passing: Kevin O’Connell, 22-38, 180 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Brandon Bornes, 12-73. Receiving: Brett Swain, 6-66

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The Sun Devils didn't need their best performance to beat San Diego State, and they didn't get it. The team went through the motions, but it worked, as the offensive line once again showed how strong it can be for the running game, blasting open lanes for Keegan Herring to blow through. Without Ryan Torain, ASU still got production. Outside of an interception, Rudy Carpenter had another nice game. It's night-and-day compared to last year; he's not forcing his throws, because he doesn't need to. He's getting plenty of time to operate.

Sept. 8
Arizona State 33 ... Colorado 14
Colorado jumped out to a 14-0 lead on a 35-yard Terrence Wheatley interception return for a score and a ten-yard Scotty McKnight touchdown catch, and then ASU took over with a 33-point run over two quarters to coast to the sloppy win. Rudy Carpenter threw three touchdown passes with two to Michael Jones. Kyle Williams caught a 22-yard touchdown pass on a brilliant Carpenter throw at the end of the first half on the drive following a 26-yard interception return for a score from Troy Nolan. Ryan Torain added a seven-yard touchdown run.
Player of the game ... Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter completed 19 of 37 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns with an interception
Stat Leaders: Colorado - Passing: Cody Hawkins, 16-43, 162 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Demetrius Sumler, 16-34  Receiving: Scotty McKnight, 6-63, 1 TD
Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 19-37, 269 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Ryan Torain, 17-91, 1 TD  Receiving:
Michael Jones, 6-96, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
It's not like the Sun Devils didn't try to be the Sun Devils of old against Colorado with several chippy penalties and three turnovers, but it didn't matter; the team is too good. The defense is as physical as any the program has seen since the late 1990s, while Rudy Carpenter showed for the second straight week that he has the poise and command back. He threaded the needle with a few beautiful passes he wasn't making last year. Now the team has to work on the finer things against San Diego State, like not committing 12 penalties for 136 yards, and has to do more to pound out the ground game with someone other than Ryan Torain.

Sept. 1
Arizona State 45 ... San Jose State 3
Arizona State stomped on the Spartans as Ryan Torain ran for three touchdowns and Rudy Carpenter threw for two others in the surprising blowout. The San Jose State offense managed a 28-yard Jared Strubeck field goal and gained a mere 115 yards of total offense on the day. The Sun Devils did whatever they wanted to, rushing for 250 yards and passing for 270.
Player of the game ... Arizona State RB Ryan Torain ran 17 times for 123 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: San Jose State - Passing: Adam Tafralis, 5-13, 39 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Adam Tafralis, 6-19  Receiving: David Richmond, 5-32
Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 14-20, 197 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Ryan Torain, 17-123, 3 TD  Receiving:
Michael Jones, 4-63, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Talk about getting off to a big start, ASU throttled a good San Jose State team in every way possible to kick off the Dennis Erickson era with a bang. 33 first downs to seven. 520 yards to 115. 13 of 17 on third down conversions. Everything went right, and now the weekly consistency has to be there that wasn't in the Dirk Koetter era. Also of note was the performance by Rudy Carpenter, who appears to have relaxed and has gotten his groove back. Do this against Colorado next week, and then it'll be truly time to get excited.

Sept. 1 - San Jose State
Offense: The offense wasn't always explosive, but it was steady, didn't give the ball away, kept the chains moving, and got the job done. Expect more of the same if the offensive line can quickly replace three starters and the new recruits for the receiving corps can play right away. The passing game loses the top three targets and 141 of 181 catches, so ultra-efficient QB Adam Tafralis has to be even better. Yonus Davis leads a small, quick, veteran group of running backs that can take it the distance with a little bit of room.
Defense: The Spartan defense took a giant leap forward giving up yards, but not a whole bunch of points allowing fewer than 24 in ten of the final 11 games. Seven starters are back from the ball-hawking crew led by tackling machine Matt Castelo at middle linebacker and corners Dwight Lowery and Christopher Owens. The defensive front has to do a better overall job, and it will now that it's experienced after cutting its teeth last season. Jarron Gilbert and Justin Cole will be pass rushing terrors. Expect this group to give up plenty of yards, but also come up with more than its share of takeaways.


Sept. 8 - Colorado
Offense: Call this a stepping-stone season for the offense before it explodes in 2008. The overall production can't help but be better after averaging a Big 12-worst 291 yards and 16 points per game. There are too many ifs. If a backup can emerge behind top running back Hugh Charles, and if all the problems this spring finding healthy offensive linemen go away, and if the veteran receiving corps can prove that it's better than last season showed, and if Cody Hawkins and/or Nick Nelson can shine right away at quarterback, the Buffs should start to have the offense that Buff fans expected when Dan Hawkins was hired.
Defense: The defense was better than it every got credit for considering the offense provided no help whatsoever. The starting 11, in whatever configuration that turns out to be, should be excellent as long as a pass rush is found from the ends. The linebacking corps will be the strength with tackling-machine Jordon Dizon leading the way. George Hypolite and Brandon Nicolas form an excellent tackle tandem to work around, while Terrence Wheatley is an All-Big 12 corner to handle everyone's number one. Now there needs to be more from the secondary, and the run defense has to be as strong as it was last year despite losing key linemen Abraham Wright and Walter Boye-Doe.


Sept. 15 - San Diego State
Offense: Could everyone please stay healthy so we can see what the offense can do? Eight starters return, along with many others with starting experience, but it'll be the ones who weren't a part of the mix throughout all of last year, QB Kevin O'Connell and RB Lynell Hamilton, who'll need to make the offense sing after it finished averaging a woeful 14.17 points per game. Even if they don't backup quarterback Kevin Craft and a host of running backs are good enough to bring more production. The receivers are big and fast, the combination of running backs are big and fast, and O'Connell is big and fast. The line should be fine with plenty of returning experience, so now there has to be real, live production.
Defense: Uh oh. Four starters return from a defense that struggled with its consistency throughout the year and did nothing to get into the backfield. That was with Antwan Applewhite, who left a year early. The outside linebackers, Russell Allen and Brett Martin, are the strength of the defense, Ray Bass is a solid, veteran safety, while Nick Osborn is a good, versatile lineman who'll start out at tackle after playing last year at end. That's about it for the sure-things. The corner situation is a mess, there's no pass rusher to count on, and the overall depth will be an issue.

Sept. 22 - Oregon State
Offense: While the Beavers regularly skip using a fullback in favor of a third receiver, they’re a balanced offense that’ll run it as much as they throw.  When you’ve got a back as talented as senior Yvenson Bernard, that’s called using your resources wisely.  Bernard has run for more than 1,300 yards in each of the last two seasons behind a nasty, no-nonsense line that welcomes back all but one starter.  Senior split end Sammie Stroughter is an open field dynamo coming off a monster season in 2006.  What he can do for an encore depends in large part on how well one of two sophomore quarterbacks adapts to a full-time gig.  Hard-throwing lefty Sean Canfield is the acknowledged favorite to supplant Matt Moore, but Lyle Moevao sent a message this spring that he won’t go away quietly.             
Defense: Much of the unit that led the Pac-10 in takeaways and sacks is back in Corvallis for 2007.  The front seven, in particular, is rock solid and made up entirely of seniors.  The best of the bunch is outside linebacker Derrick Doggett, who has the range and long stride to literally make plays anywhere on the field.  After bagging a team-high nine sacks as a reserve in 2006, end Dorian Smith is a sleeper with a chance to shed his anonymity this fall.  Whether the Beaver D can get from really good to impervious in 2007 depends on the development of a suspect secondary that allowed 223 yards a game a year ago.  Junior corners Keenan Lewis and Brandon Hughes are moving in the right direction, but you don’t get better by losing long-time patrolman Sabby Piscitelli.                                     

Sept. 29 – at Stanford
Offense: Jim Harbaugh wants to attack defenses with an up tempo offense that’ll feature lots of pre-snap motion and a ball control element that harkens back to the Bill Walsh days of the West Coast offense.  It worked swimmingly at the University of San Diego for the past couple of years, but this is Stanford where ten points and less than 250 yards a game was the norm last year.  The Cardinal is experienced everywhere and pretty deep at the skill positions, but none of that will matter unless the offensive line does a complete 180 off last year’s atrocious performance. 
Defense: New defensive coordinator Scott Shafer is scrapping the 3-4 this year in favor of an attacking 4-3 that is designed to create more turnovers and more plays for negative yards.  The Cardinal is open to suggestions after finishing last in the Pac-10 in just about every defensive category in 2006.  There are holes, to be sure, but Shafer will also inherit some exciting young talent at each unit, such as sophomore tackle Ekom Udofia, sophomore linebacker Clinton Snyder and junior cornerback Wopamo Osaisai.  Above all else, the defense has to find some answers against the run after being humiliated for more than 2,500 yards and nearly five yards a carry a year ago.

Oct. 6 – at Washington State
Offense: Washington State won’t abandon the run by any means, but this is an offense that’s traditionally wide-open and run out of three-wide sets.  The engineer of the attack will be fourth-year starting quarterback Alex Brink, who enters his senior season with a real nice complement of receivers, led by all-Pac-10 candidates Brandon Gibson and Michael Bumpus.  Although the offensive line welcomes back four players that started games a year ago, both tackles will be new, a big concern heading into the season.  If they’re overmatched, the ripple effect will reverberate throughout the entire offense.          
Defense: Expect some subtle changes as head coach Bill Doba steps in to coordinate the defense in 2007.  He’d like to utilize more man coverages and blitz packages, both of which could be suicide for a secondary that’s been gutted by graduations and is in dire need of a couple of reliable cornerbacks.  The Cougars are going to give up plenty of yards and points, but if they can create turnovers and sack the quarterback, like last year, there’s hope that the breakdowns can be managed.  The defense is loaded with big, agile bodies up front, but there’s a catch—serious injuries are mounting and could bleed into the start of the season.  While there’s no quick fix for the pass defense, junior college transfer Terry Mixon has the potential to be a star from the moment he steps foot in Pullman.

Oct. 13 - Washington
Offense: All eyes in Seattle will be fixed on the debut of hot-shot rookie quarterback Jake Locker, but if there’s one priority for Tyrone Willingham in 2007, it’s to get more consistent on the ground.  Conservative by Pac-10 doctrine, the third-year coach wants to pound it between the tackles to set up the pass.  Top back Louis Rankin is more of an outside runner, putting the onus on 210-pound sophomore J.R. Hasty to start realizing his vast potential.  While Locker has all the tools for stardom, he’ll spend most of the upcoming season adapting to his new role as the face of the program.  His big-play target will be senior Marcel Reece, a Mike Walker clone poised to make a salary run.
Defense:
Even with a slight improvement in 2006, the Husky pass defense ranked among the nation’s worst for the second straight year.  With no stars and two new starters, expect more of the same in 2007.  The problems in the secondary will again overshadow a sneaky good front seven that features four returning starters on the defensive line and a group of young, dynamic linebackers, including sophomores E.J. Savannah and Donald Butler that could evolve into playmakers.  Defensive ends Greyson Gunheim and Daniel Te’o Nesheim are a couple of warriors that combined for two dozen tackles for loss last fall.  At 6-5 and 265 pounds, Gunheim runs like a gazelle, making him a magnet for NFL scouts visiting the Northwest. 

Oct. 27 - California
Offense: With Jeff Tedford at the controls, this is basically a pro-style offense that mixes the run and the pass evenly, and puts up points as quickly as any program in the country.  The head coach will be calling plays again after a one-year hiatus, meaning trick plays will be more frequent than a year ago.  The job of distributing the ball to an array of speedy skill position players belongs to quarterback Nate Longshore, a strong-armed junior that threw 24 touchdown passes in 2006 and a few too many picks.  Although he has plenty of receivers to choose from, none is more lethal than DeSean Jackson, a field-stretcher and legit Heisman candidate.  Super sub Justin Forsett takes over for Marshawn Lynch at running back, where he’ll be running behind an outstanding veteran line.  Center Alex Mack is on the All-American doorstep after earning first team All-Pac-10 honors as a sophomore.
Defense: There’s plenty of work to be done for a Cal defense that begins a new era without its signature all-conference player at each of the three defensive units.  Outstanding recruiting by Jeff Tedford and his staff in recent years ensures that the cupboard is far from empty, but there’ll be a learning curve early on in 2007.  Of greatest concern is a pass defense that gets modest support up front and will be relying on a slew of green cornerbacks.  Sophomore Syd’Quan Thompson and redshirt freshman Darian Hagan look the part, but need to deliver once Pac-10 plays begins.  Junior Zack Follett is the budding star of a linebacker unit that has the potential to be the next best thing to USC in the conference.      

Nov. 3 – at Oregon
Offense: As usual, Oregon gobbled up a ton of yards in 2006, but lacked efficiency most of the year and imploded under the weight of its turnovers in the second half of the season.  So when offensive coordinator Gary Crowton left for LSU, Mike Bellotti turned to New Hampshire’s Chip Kelly to get the offense back on course.  A spread offense guru, Kelly will have a few new bells and whistles in his toolbox, including greater use of the no-huddle and increased reliance on superstar back Jonathan Stewart.  The key for the offense, and probably the entire team, will be the development of senior quarterback Dennis Dixon, who became the poster boy for the Ducks’ collapse late last year.  He’ll get adequate protection from Max Unger and the boys up front, but needs more consistency from a receiving corps that misplayed too many balls in 2006. 
Defense: Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti isn’t shy about bringing pressure with his wave of good athletes, and now has a couple of quality corners to marginalize the risk of selling out.  Jairus Byrd and Walter Thurmond, Freshman All-Americans in 2006, join standout rover Patrick Chung to give the Ducks their feistiest secondary in years.  The front seven, however, is far less stable.  After finishing ninth in the Pac-10 in run defense, Oregon needs to shore up the middle of its defense and develop an end or two that can consistently create pressure.  Redshirt freshman Brandon Bair is one possibility that has the staff cautiously excited about the defensive end spot.  In a league filled with strong-armed hurlers, that promising secondary will pay the price if opposing passers are given too much time to throw.

Nov. 10 – at UCLA
Offense: Tired of his feeble offense and conservative play calling, Karl Dorrell is turning the unit over to Jay Norvell, a Nebraska import who’ll be calling plays for the first time in his career.  With him comes an up tempo version of the West Coast offense that’ll be rooted in high percentage passes and the occasional use of the shotgun.  Norvell’s triggerman will be lefty Ben Olson, who’s held off the challenge of Patrick Cowan, and is still waiting for a breakthrough season five years after being a ballyhooed BYU recruit.  Although 12 players with extensive starting experience return, only guard Shannon Tevaga and running back Chris Markey can be considered bona fide threats for all-league honors.  To help get Olson where he needs to be, a playmaker or two needs to emerge among a pedestrian receiving corps.
Defense: Kudos to defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, who did the improbable in 2006 by whipping a sorry Bruin defense into shape.  Ten starters are back from that unit, which finished No. 2 in the Pac-10 in total defense and tops against the run.  One All-American rush end, Justin Hickman, has departed, but one, Bruce Davis, returns to wreak havoc on league quarterbacks.  Although the linebackers look nothing like the ones across town at USC, they’re fast, instinctive and a nice fit for Walker’s defense.  Middle linebacker Christian Taylor is the definition of a hard-working college athlete that makes a ton of plays, but likely won’t be wearing pads beyond 2007.  The secondary is an enigma that’s loaded with returning talent, yet still vulnerable through the air.  Strong safety Chris Horton laid the groundwork last year for what should be a terrific final season at UCLA.

Nov. 22 - USC
Offense: Does anyone in the country reload faster than the Trojans?  While there’ll be new faces on the line, at wide receiver, and at offensive coordinator, the high-powered results that have become commonplace in the Pete Carroll era aren’t about to change.  Of course, it helps to have at the controls strong-armed senior John David Booty, one of the early favorites to add a fourth Heisman Trophy to Heritage Hall in the last six years.  He’ll be surrounded by an absolutely decadent amount of skill position talent, but most of the receivers lack experience at this level.  In this case, talent will overcome inexperience in a rout.  At 6-5 and 220 pounds, junior receiver Patrick Turner has the imposing size and sticky fingers to conjure up images of Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett, and have a breakout year.  Although the line is going to miss the presence of center Ryan Kalil, returning two-time All-American Sam Baker to protect Booty’s blindside will help cushion the blow.    
Defense: The Trojan offense is good.  The Trojan defense is scary good.  Backed by a Who’s Who of future first-day NFL Draft choices, USC is ready to unleash the nastiest and stingiest unit of the Pete Carroll era.  Led by Sedrick Ellis at the nose, Keith Rivers at middle linebacker, and Terrell Thomas at cornerback, the Trojans boast seven players capable of making a run at All-America honors in 2007.  Yeah, a few more sacks and takeaways would be nice, but this is as close to a flawless unit that there is in the country.  From front to back, they’re aggressive, experienced and fast enough to create a swarming effect on the ball carrier.  Although the Trojans will give up yards to teams playing from behind, scoring meaningful points on them in the first three quarters is going to be a year-long nightmare.   

Dec. 1 - Arizona
Offense: After averaging a 100th place finish in total offense over the last three years, Mike Stoops has handed the unit off to former Texas Tech coordinator Sonny Dykes.  Dykes has learned from the likes of Mike Leach and Hal Mumme over the last decade, so expect to see a rejuvenated Willie Tuitama in the shotgun, putting the ball up a ton more than last season.  The Wildcats’ quest to stretch defenses vertically and horizontally in the spread offense will hinge on their ability to develop dependable receivers other than junior Mike Thomas.  The beleaguered offensive line is a year older, intact and poised to benefit from a system that forces the quarterback to make quick passes and even quicker decisions.  Sophomore Eben Britton is on the brink of becoming a prodigy at right tackle.
Defense: With the return of ten starters and an all-star caliber player at each unit, Arizona should be even stingier than 2006, when it led the Pac-10 in turnover margin and allowed fewer than 20 points a game.  The headliner once again will be senior Antoine Cason, one of the smoothest corners in America and a leading candidate for the Thorpe Award.  Led by underrated senior Spencer Larsen, the linebackers are a no-name crew that just goes out and makes a bunch of tackles every Saturday.  The onus for jump starting the pass rush falls squarely on the shoulders of senior Louis Holmes, a massive talent that underachieved in his first season out of junior college. 

 


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